Understanding the Irony of “Animal Farm”

Arts and Literature

“Animal Farm” by George Orwell is a classic satirical novel that portrays a group of farm animals overthrowing their human farmer, Mr. Jones, in the hope of creating a utopian society. However, as the story unfolds, the animals’ revolution takes an unexpected turn, revealing the inherent irony within their pursuit of equality and freedom. In this article, we will delve into the various layers of irony present in “Animal Farm” and explore the deeper meanings behind Orwell’s satirical masterpiece.

The Allegory of the Russian Revolution

One of the key aspects of “Animal Farm” is its allegorical representation of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the subsequent formation of the Soviet Union. By using animals to represent historical figures and events, Orwell creates a satirical mirror of the revolution and its aftermath. This allegory sets the stage for the irony that unfolds throughout the novel.

The Idealistic Vision

When the animals first unite to overthrow Mr. Jones, they do so with a shared vision of equality and freedom. Old Major, a wise and respected boar, delivers a stirring speech that inspires the animals to rebel against their human oppressors. This initial idealistic vision sets the tone for the irony that follows.

The Seven Commandments

After the animals successfully take control of the farm, they establish a set of principles known as the Seven Commandments. These commandments are meant to govern the behavior of all animals and ensure equality and justice. However, as the story progresses, the commandments are gradually manipulated and violated, highlighting the irony of the animals’ initial pursuit of a fair society.

The Pigs’ Rise to Power

One of the major sources of irony in “Animal Farm” lies in the pigs’ gradual takeover of leadership and their betrayal of the other animals. Initially, the pigs, led by the intelligent and persuasive Snowball and Napoleon, are seen as the most dedicated to the revolution’s ideals. However, as time goes on, the pigs become corrupt and power-hungry, ultimately resembling the humans they once despised.

The Transformation of the Farm

As the pigs consolidate their power, the farm undergoes a transformation that further underscores the irony of the animals’ revolution. The ideals of equality and freedom are gradually eroded, and the pigs begin to exploit their fellow animals, just as Mr. Jones did before them. The farm, which was once a symbol of hope and liberation, becomes a place of oppression and inequality.

The Manipulation of Language

Another significant aspect of the irony in “Animal Farm” is the manipulation of language by the pigs. As the story progresses, the pigs use language as a tool to control and deceive the other animals, further highlighting the irony of their pursuit of a fair society.

The Slogan “Four Legs Good, Two Legs Bad”

Early in the novel, the animals adopt the slogan “Four Legs Good, Two Legs Bad” as a way to simplify their shared beliefs and distinguish themselves from humans. However, as the pigs gain power, they gradually alter the slogan to “Four Legs Good, Two Legs Better,” indicating their growing desire to emulate human behavior and superiority.

The Redefinition of Terms

The pigs also manipulate language by redefining certain terms to suit their own agenda. For example, they change the meaning of the word “equality” to justify their privileged position as the ruling class. This manipulation of language serves to highlight the irony of the pigs’ actions and their betrayal of the animals’ original goals.

The Use of Propaganda

Propaganda is another tool used by the pigs to manipulate the other animals and maintain their control. They employ slogans, such as “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others,” to justify their unfair treatment of the other animals. This blatant contradiction further emphasizes the irony of their pursuit of equality and freedom.

The Ultimate Betrayal

In the final act of irony, the pigs fully embrace human behavior by walking on two legs, wearing clothes, and even changing the name of the farm back to its original name, “Manor Farm.” The animals, who had fought so hard for their freedom, are left disillusioned and defeated, as the pigs become indistinguishable from the humans they once rebelled against.

Animal Farm | Summary & Analysis | George Orwell


Q: What is the main message of “Animal Farm”?

A: The main message of “Animal Farm” is the corruption of power and the dangers of totalitarianism. Orwell uses the story to highlight how even the most noble of revolutions can be hijacked by those seeking personal gain, ultimately resulting in the oppression of the masses.

Q: Why does Orwell use animals as characters in “Animal Farm”?

A: Orwell uses animals as characters in “Animal Farm” to create a sense of distance and remove the story from specific political contexts. By using animals, he is able to address universal themes of power, corruption, and inequality that transcend any particular time or place.

Q: How does the manipulation of language contribute to the irony in “Animal Farm”?

A: The manipulation of language by the pigs serves to highlight the irony of their pursuit of a fair society. By redefining terms and using propaganda, they deceive the other animals and maintain their control, ultimately betraying the principles of equality and freedom they initially championed.

Q: What are some examples of irony in “Animal Farm”?

A: Some examples of irony in “Animal Farm” include the pigs’ gradual transformation into human-like oppressors, the violation of the Seven Commandments, and the pigs’ manipulation of language to justify their privileged position. These examples all serve to highlight the contrast between the animals’ initial ideals and the reality of their situation.

Q: What is the significance of the Seven Commandments in “Animal Farm”?

A: The Seven Commandments represent the animals’ initial vision of a fair and equal society. However, as the pigs gain power, the commandments are gradually manipulated and violated, symbolizing the erosion of the animals’ dreams and the irony of their revolution.

Q: What is the lasting impact of “Animal Farm”?

A: “Animal Farm” continues to be a powerful allegory that resonates with readers across generations. Its portrayal of the dangers of unchecked power and the corruption of revolutions serves as a cautionary tale and a reminder of the importance of remaining vigilant in the face of oppression.


The irony of “Animal Farm” lies in the stark contrast between the animals’ initial ideals of equality and freedom and the reality of their situation under the pigs’ rule. Through the use of allegory, manipulation of language, and the gradual transformation of the farm, Orwell masterfully exposes the inherent flaws and dangers of revolutions. “Animal Farm” serves as a timeless reminder that power corrupts and that the pursuit of utopia often leads to dystopia.

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